Tag Archives: energy

Mr. President…Congratulations! You’ll need more energy this term.

10 Nov

 

Congratulations Mr. President. You pulled off an incredible election win, defying the pundits and earning another four years in the White House.

Let’s face it though, your election win is historic because it was the most money ever spent to maintain the status quo. The operation of the Constitution through the Electoral College gives the appearance of an impressive victory, but the popular vote belies that result. You weren’t handed a mandate and you face virtually the same hopelessly deadlocked Congress. Wall Street isn’t exuberant either.

Nevertheless, savor the moment. But, you’ll need to keep the victory lap short.

Clearly, your most pressing agenda item is the dreaded “fiscal cliff.” You’ll likely be spending a good deal of time ensuring that our financial problems don’t morph into another Greek-style economic crisis. Along the way, you’ll probably attempt to implement some spending cuts and tax reforms, tweak Obama care, face down the Iranians, strike a few more al-Qaeda, and keep China and Russia in check . If you stop to think about it, the global financial collapsed you faced on your first day on the job back in January 2009, looks like just another day at the office.

So where can you boost the energy level, build a few bi-partisan bridges, and increase the prospects for a successful encore term? Try energy. No, not one of those caffeinated drinks so popular with the millennials. (By the way, don’t let Sasha or Malia get a taste for those.) Real energy.

OK, energy wasn’t your strong suit during the first term. You promised to stop the rise in sea level, create a green economy,  implement Cap and Trade, support carbon-free technologies, promote clean coal, unleash the hounds of enforcement at EPA, and promote zero emission electric vehicles.

What you ended up with was spending a few billion dollars on Solyndra, EnerOne, Tesla Motors, et. al., a green job drain to countries such as China and Sweden, Cap and Trade buried by the economy and Congress, threats to bankrupt new coal-fired power plants, about 10,000 Chevy Volts sold, the BP blowout, and a few million homeless residents living without power on the New Jersey and New York shoreline. But that one doesn’t count because it was caused by an errant hurricane, not an anthropogenic rise in sea level.

Yet, believe it or not, energy could be a bright spot this time around. Take advantage of what’s happening in the sector and reach across the isle. I’ll bet that you’ll find more than a few hands extended to you. While you don’t have the budget or political clout to inaugurate grand programs, you can achieve some near-term wins and lay the foundation for realistic future advances. Besides, working families and businesses will thank you for keeping their utility bills and gasoline budget in check.

What’s behind this vision? For starters, domestic oil and gas production has rebounded as a result of hydraulic fracturing. There is a real prospect to import less foreign oil as a result. Jobs of all kind are being created to support the boom in domestic production. The new supplies have driven down the price for natural gas spurring private sector investment in more affordable alternatives to diesel and gasoline. Finally, because it’s displacing coal in power generation, cleaner burning natural gas is reducing the country’s Green House Gas (“GHG”) emissions despite the defeat of Cap and Trade.

So, what should the second Obama Administration do to capitalize on this situation? The fiscal cliff, stubbornly high unemployment, and anemic GDP are casting dark clouds over every aspect of this term. Energy is no exception. Just remember three simple words: Plentiful, Affordable, Reliable.

Start by recognizing that now is not the time to press Congress for climate change programs, a new carbon tax, Cap and Trade, or spending on green washed programs of any type. You need not abandon your long-term desire heal the planet, but the first order of business is to heal the economy. Besides, you have breathing room on GHG emissions since they are currently headed in the right direction, even though it’s for all the wrong reasons. Don’t ever forget that working families and businesses are paying for those GHG reductions with job losses and budget cuts.

Continue exploiting natural gas. It’s creating more jobs than any other business sector, bringing down the cost of heat and light, providing a sustainable competitive advantage to domestic chemical and fertilizer producers, driving private sector investment as an alternative vehicle fuel, and is the most effective means of implementing real progress on reducing CO2 emissions today.

Develop domestic oil. Just as with natural gas, hydraulic fracturing in oil production could yield massive changes in how we meet our demand for oil. Other technological advances promise to unleash vast quantities of shale oil that some estimates place at nearly 5 times greater than the reserves of Saudi Arabia. Don’t deny the country the benefits of access to our domestic resources by limiting exploration and production to private lands.  Pursuing your “all of the above” strategy should include “all that’s below.”

Stop unnecessary regulatory initiatives that create duplicative, burdensome barriers to growth. To be sure, government regulations are needed to protect public health, safety, and the environment. With the advances in extractive technologies such as hydraulic fracturing and shale oil recovery, regulations must evolve to be effective. Since many oil and gas industry accidents are low probability, high impact events, the industry is subject to the most comprehensive regulation and oversight imaginable. These are oftentimes administered at both the federal and state level. That’s why intelligent regulation, not simply more red tape should be the rule.

Obviously, these changes in our energy supply picture will provide significant national security advantages at a time when the global neighborhood isn’t becoming a friendlier place for the US. But energy independence is a political statement not a policy. Look, instead, to increasing our energy stability and security. Take a North American rather than a parochial US view of our national energy security.

Canadian oil is as secure as our own production and we should do our best to ensure that our neighbor prefers doing business with us. Likewise, a North American view recognizes that the Eagle Ford shale formation in Texas doesn’t stop at the Rio Grande river. Similarly, Mexico shares the Gulf with us and they have yet to adequately develop their offshore resources. Rather than looking for ways to build a bigger fence, we should be working with Mexico to build their energy industry. If oil and gas production can create jobs and support the economies of the US, Canada, and Mexico, a fence may become superfluous.

Finally, promote the energy initiative that yields the biggest return on investment of any energy source or program – efficiency. Intelligent conservation and efficiency measures such as home insulation, white roofs, or efficient light bulbs aren’t exciting or attention grabbing, but yield immediate and sustainable results today. Besides, you can’t argue with the saying, “a gallon saved is a gallon not imported.”

The good news, Mr. President, is that you still have some very good energy options to pursue. Even in the face of our severe fiscal and economic challenges, energy can make inroads to economic recovery and national security. Take advantage of the plentiful, affordable, reliable energy supplies available today, champion intelligent regulation, and promote energy efficiency. While these may not be seen as significant legacy initiatives, sometimes leadership demands a steady hand and a workmanlike focus on the fundamentals. That’s exactly what this nation’s working families and businesses could use right now.

Energize the Presidential Campaign

28 Aug

It’s late-August and we’ve entered two weeks of national party conventions with no hope of redemption from presidential politics during the next 70 days. Both sides are desperately trying to define the other through massive expenditures on attack ads, legions of surrogates, and talking heads spouting profundities regarding the other candidate’s treatment of a family pet or use of marijuana back in high school.

Too bad that, “we the people,” know so few details of either candidate’s proposals to lead us through the next four years. This is especially true regarding energy. Granted, this past week has seen both Messrs. Obama and Romney offer some time on the stump to energy, but neither has articulated a well-defined proposal for a national energy policy.

Energy affects every aspect of our lives. Plentiful, affordable, reliable energy supplies are fundamental for a healthy, growing economy, job creation, mobility, and national security. If combined with intelligent, cost-effective efficiency standards and innovative, long-term policies promoting private investment in new energy infrastructure and research, we could find ourselves on the path to real energy security.

The energy proposals of both campaigns, however, are discouraging. President Obama, not surprisingly, combines the issue under the banner of “Energy and Environment.” Governor Romney offers a more focused series of energy proposals under three broad categories: “Regulatory Reform,” “Increasing Production,” and “Research and Development.”

President Obama’s position is a series of grand, sweeping remarks about clean energy, clean jobs, and the, “All of the Above” energy strategy. More lines of text are devoted to environmental protection, including something called, “America’s Great Outdoors,” than to energy.  The positions are underscored with a pronouncement to, “make sure we never have to choose between protecting our environment and strengthening our economy.”

Governor Romney highlights his energy initiatives in 14 succinct bullets. They range from reducing regulatory delays, expanding resource production on federal property, to funding long-term energy research. It’s a fairly good smattering of short-term strategies until he succumbs to political temptation and includes the hackneyed slogan “energy independence” by 2020.

As a result, both candidates offer little more than poll tested, political positions reflecting the will of their respective base. Neither side has posited a serious, clear-eyed vision of an effective national energy policy. Sadly, a vote for either candidate is simply going to ensure the status quo.

The nature of our energy challenges dictate that the policy be bold, well reasoned, and long-term in perspective. In other words, no politically expedient, short-term gimmicks.

Energy is a complex topic. There are no quick and easy fixes. “Drill baby drill,” “all of the above,” or “energy independence” are politically charged chants that don’t begin scratch the surface of the energy enigma. Sadly too, the political arena is probably the worst place to attempt to craft effective, long-term solutions.

Energy is international in scope. All nations, to varying degree, are interdependent. Whether it’s in the form of liquid petroleum products, natural gas, coal, uranium, renewables, or electric power, energy is fundamental to every nation’s existence and capability to thrive. In one form or another, energy is bought, sold, or traded in open international markets every day.

Considering our country’s energy demand, its supplies, and all of the economic, physical, and self imposed restrictions associated with them, we can only aspire to energy “stability” or “security.” Absent the introduction of a disruptive technology, we cannot truly be “independent.”

Our energy policy must support the economic and security interests of the nation. It must be an unambiguous, broadly inclusive, high-level pronouncement to guide, not prescribe, how we meet our energy needs.

It must be based upon clear, scientific logic and the application of sound engineering principles. While many technologies may be possible, only those that are operationally and financially sustainable and can deliver the desired results will ultimately be accepted in the market. Intermittent renewables certainly have their place, but are in no way substitutes for our existing carbon and nuclear fueled technologies used to meet base load demand.

The massive scale of energy dictates long planning and utilization timeframes. Whether it is the liquid fuels providing our mobility, solid and gaseous energy supplies for heat and power generation, or the infrastructure to deliver them all, decisions made today will be with us well into the latter half of this century.

Finally, it must recognize that there is absolutely nothing in this world that is risk free. Choices and trade offs are inevitable. Rational, fact-based decisions of policy makers supported by the analysis of subject matter experts is required.

It’s likely too late in the silly season to expect that either presidential campaign would embrace this reality. Even more unlikely that the political hacks would allow them to publicly admit it. But, wouldn’t it be refreshing if they did? That would energize the electorate this year!